Vicki Wright reflects road traffic accidents that have occupied the news lately.
"It is always with great sadness when I read in the news that individuals have lost their lives in road traffic accidents.
There have been several horrific crashes on our motorways recently.
Worryingly, with the increasing traffic on our roads and motorways, I fear that such collisions will occur more and more frequently.
News quickly gets replaced with fresh news. But for those involved in such incidents, the horror of what happened will be permanent.
Families and friends will face the slow and traumatic process of adjusting to life without their loved ones.
In the immediate aftermath, practical issues must, of course, be considered.
But what about the longer term? For example, if dependents are left behind who relied upon the deceased’s income, financial difficulties may arise.
Where the death was caused by another’s negligence, it is crucial to seek legal advice as soon as practicable.
In circumstances where death was instant, it is likely that a claim can be brought under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. Such claims must be brought within 3 years of the date of the death.
Under this Act, it is possible to claim for:-
- loss of income and services dependence; and
- funeral expenses
There are two classes of people who can claim bereavement (the current award for statutory bereavement damages is set at £12,980), namely:-
- the husband or wife, or civil partner of the deceased; or
- parents of a child who is under 18 years old
Many others may, of course, suffer bereavement but regretfully, as the law currently stands, the following are excluded from making a claim:-
- parents of children over 18 years old
- children of parents who die
- foster parents
- brothers and sisters
Loss of income and services dependence
This is the main head of claim and in contrast to the claim for bereavement damages, this head of claim is much wider and does include spouses, parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, civil partners and co-habitees.
The law relating to such claims is complex but in essence, the court will assess the loss by evaluating what would have happened if the individual had not died. If appropriate, for example, the court would consider career progression and how long the dependents would have remained dependent in order to calculate the award.
In addition to the dependency upon the deceased’s income, it may also be appropriate to consider the deceased’s services which had monetary value. Accordingly, if the deceased maintained their own vehicle, for example, or undertook DIY/decorating, it would be possible to seek an award to cover these future costs.
Any expenses incurred in relation to the funeral costs, so long as they are reasonable, may be recovered.
Awards arising under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 will obviously vary depending upon the circumstances of each case which is why it is so important to seek legal advice.
In some instances, however, death is not immediate and the victim may well suffer with horrific injuries for days, months or even years before passing away. In these circumstances, assuming that the death was a direct cause of the injuries sustained, it is possible for the personal representatives to bring an action on behalf of the estate. This action would be under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934.
Under this Act, it is possible to claim for:
- damages for the deceased’s losses up to the date of death, including pain and suffering in the period between the injury and death; and
- funeral expenses.
The value of the claim will depend upon the extent of suffering and the length of time the suffering lasted for.
In addition, the claim may include past loss of earnings, the cost of past care, medical expenses, cost of equipment and relatives’ travel expenses.
As under the Fatal Accidents Act, it is also possible to claim for funeral expenses.
In some cases, it will be appropriate for the personal representatives to bring an action on behalf of the estate in addition to a claim being brought under the Fatal Accidents Act. In these circumstances, it is not possible to claim for funeral expenses twice."
If you, a family member of a friend have suffered a bereavement in these circumstances, contact Vicki Wright in our Personal Injury Team on 023 92 483322 for free advice.